Read Psalm 11.
I want to say, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner,” but Psalm 11 won’t let me do that. In verse 5, Scripture says plainly, “The wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” God hates wicked people, not just their wickedness. There’s no amount of theological or grammatical kung fu that will change the meaning of this verse.
We’ve seen this sort of thing once already. In Psalm 5, David says to God, “You hate all who do wrong” (v. 5). Just in case we were tempted to limit “the wicked” in Psalm 11 specifically to those who love violence, Psalm 5 widens the playing field. Simply put, God hates sinners.
So, how do we square these statements (and others in the Psalms) about God’s hatred of sinners with what we read elsewhere:
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
It won’t do to talk about the New Testament somehow superseding the Old. God does not change. We cannot discount one set of passages in favor of others. All of Scripture is God’s Word. And as we’ve already seen, we cannot change the meaning of these hatred verses to something more palatable, like the nonsense about God hating the sin and loving the sinner.
We have no choice but to take all of Scripture for what it says and what it means to say: God hates sinners. He hates when the men and women He created, acting from their own moral free agency, choose what is contrary to His character. He hates liars, cheaters, thieves, murderers, adulterers, blasphemers, idolaters, and a thousand other varieties of sinner alike. As Psalm 5:5 tells us, God hates all who do wrong.
At the same time, God chooses to love those He hates. He is patient with sinners (2 Peter 3:9). He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). He sustains His creation for those who love Him and for those who don’t (Job 38–39). And He gave His Son to save sinners (Romans 8:32).
In His hatred of sinners, God has determined a day when the world will be judged (Acts 7:31). But in His love for those same sinners, He gave His Son to die on a cross in their place (Romans 5:6). So, yes, we should affirm that God hates sinners and that God loves sinners. Both are true.
“For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face (Psalm 11:7). And because of God’s love for those He hates and the blood of Jesus, even the worst sinner can be made upright.